Yeonmi Park (@YeonmiParkNK) is a North Korean defector and activist whose harrowing experiences are chronicled in her book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Catch up with part one here!]
What We Discuss with Yeonmi Park:
- Why there’s a black market for poop in North Korea.
- How the people of North Korea are kept isolated from the outside world to the extent that they use a different calendar, have never heard of Shakespeare, and don’t even have words for “oppression” or “love.”
- How North Korea’s guilt-by-association policy can carry punishment for people who are within several generations of someone perceived as offensive to the regime.
- Why Yeonmi finds being on the North Korean regime’s official kill list to be “liberating.”
- How long it might take to watch Titanic in a country that only turns on the electricity for State holidays (and the ultimate penalty for getting caught doing so).
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
North Korean defector and activist Yeonmi Park once said: “I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.” In her book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, she details how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea — and to freedom.
On this two-part episode, Yeonmi joins us to share the bizarre mind games generations of North Koreans have had to endure under the current regime; how the regime isolates citizens under its control with its own calendar and propaganda that extends to the math classroom and the nation’s very vocabulary; the punishment for getting caught watching movies from the Western world; what it’s like to be on Kim Jong-un’s kill list; how your entire extended family and grandchildren not yet born could be punished if you commit what the regime considers a transgression; why there’s a black market for poop in North Korea; and much more. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Catch up with part one here!]
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- Glenfiddich: Find out more about the Glenfiddich #Richest25 here
- Ten Thousand: Get 15% off with code JORDAN
- ZipRecruiter: Learn more at ziprecruiter.com/jordan
- BetterHelp: Get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan
- Edmunds: Learn more at edmunds.com
- Chinet: Visit mychinet.com to find out more
Miss our two-parter with North Korean defector Charles Ryu? Catch up here starting with episode 84: Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part One!
Thanks, Yeonmi Park!
If you enjoyed this session with Yeonmi Park, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Yeonmi Park at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park and Maryanne Vollers | Amazon
- Voice of North Korea by Yeonmi Park | YouTube
- Yeonmi Park | Instagram
- Yeonmi Park | Twitter
- Yeonmi Park | Facebook
- Yeonmi Park: Escaping from North Korea in Search of Freedom | One Young World
- While They Watched | Prime Video
- Charles Ryu | Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Charles Ryu | Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Going to North Korea: Part One | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Going to North Korea: Part Two | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Ulrich “The Mole” Larsen | Undercover in North Korea Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Ulrich “The Mole” Larsen | Undercover in North Korea Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Hyesan | Wikipedia
- Kim Jong-Un Wants North Koreans’ Feces to Fight the Fertilizer Crisis | ATI
- Queen Elizabeth Sent Congratulations to North Korea, Palace Confirms | CNN
- North Korean Calendar | Wikipedia
- Guilty-By-Association: Growing up in Hell of North Korean Gulag | Reuters
- Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden | Amazon
- Kim Jong-un Lost Weight. No One Knows How or Why. | The New York Times
- How North Korea Got Away with the Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam | The Guardian
- What Happened to Jamal Khashoggi? 7 Unanswered Questions. | The Washington Post
- Yeonmi Park is on Kim Jong-Un’s Kill List | Chris Williamson
- Dear Leader Dreams of Sushi | GQ
- Arirang Korean Folk Song | 테데움
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick | Amazon
- Kimchi | Wikipedia
- Titanic | Prime Video
- Take On Me by a-ha, North Korean Style | TraavikInfo
- Under the Sun | Prime Video
579: Yeonmi Park | A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom Part Two
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Lately, you've heard me talk about Glenfiddich and challenging the traditional notions, commonly portrayed in culture, of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes that beyond the material, a life of wealth and riches is also about family, community, values, and fulfilling work. These are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. This week's guest Yeonmi Park exemplifies these values, and you'll find out why later on in the episode. More from our partners at Glenfiddich coming up later in the show.
[00:00:29] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:32] Yeonmi Park: I still got up and I got beaten and I tried to escape, and the only very unique thing with North Koreans even, whenever you ask them in their dream, it's always North Korea. And that's the thing, you never escape. In your subconscious, you're there forever. Like my mom, every night, she's there every night. And they're like nobody escapes in your dream.
[00:00:57] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional Russian chess Grandmaster, four-star general, or former Jihadi. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:22] Now, if you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, our starter packs, are where you can do that. These are collections of your favorite episodes, organized by popular topics that help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. And I always appreciate it when you do that.
[00:01:41] Today, part two with Yeonmi Park. If you haven't heard part one, go back and grab it. She has escaped from North Korea. She's a popular online personality and activist right now. Her story is harrowing and incredible. And I think you're really going to enjoy it. If you haven't heard part one again, go back and grab that. Otherwise, here we go with part two with Yeonmi Park.
[00:02:00] By the way, if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great creators, authors, thinkers every week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty, how to build your own network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests on our show subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:20] Now, here's part two with Yeonmi Park.
[00:02:24] You thought the leader could read your mind. I know that there's these self-criticism sessions as well, where you're of kind of like, I guess it's kind of like Catholic confession where you air your own failings, but you also have to kind of narc on other people, right?
[00:02:37] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, that's the difference. It's more like, I think, Chinese people, also during the cultural revolution, they denounce people.
[00:02:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:02:44] Yeonmi Park: Exactly the same thing. Even children have to do it. This is where they completely teach you how you don't matter. And to make sure that the dignity of human beings gets rid off at the point where you are not even not a being anymore. Only reason you exist is because of the Kims. That is your only real life purpose. So you write down the verses that Kim Jong-un said, which is, maybe students' job is studying hard and working hard for the party. Example, like this week, based on his life, it's like Bible verses. We have the book.
[00:03:17] Jordan Harbinger: Bible verses, yeah.
[00:03:18] Yeonmi Park: Like, you know, what Kim said, I don't know who said it, maybe the party wrote it for him, right?
[00:03:23] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:03:23] Yeonmi Park: And then we say, he said this but compared to his words, I was not faithful revolutionary. So Dear Leader, for his mercy, please forgive me, my sin. Now, this is a difference. It's maybe Catholic Church, you can do that too. Maybe God said this, this way. I didn't do a good job, but also the thing is you can never say what I did the right,
[00:03:41] Jordan Harbinger: It has only one direction.
[00:03:44] Yeonmi Park: You always have to be a sinner. You always have to be guilty. You always have to feel greatly sorry for being you. They make you feel like you are not worthy of anything, degrading you. After that, you have to pick somebody and that is cold, even kids. So entire week, Saturday, the self-criticism session is coming in. So you have to look for people's faults because you cannot get away not criticizing somebody.
[00:04:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:04:10] Yeonmi Park: So it's a real thing that you look at other people. So you're going to learn how to look at other people's behaviors, spying on them and their faults.
[00:04:19] Jordan Harbinger: The distrust is programmed from the jump in your classmates, right?
[00:04:23] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:04:23] Jordan Harbinger: Because you, you won't say, "Oh, I didn't do my homework last night because I was watching something with my parents. It's like someone will tell on you and then you look bad in front of everyone.
[00:04:32] Yeonmi Park: Then you get punished.
[00:04:33] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And you get punished. And if you did anything actually bad, then you're in even worse trouble. So it's just finding any reason to denounce anyone for any reason, including yourself.
[00:04:44] Yeonmi Park: And there's this kind of quota. You have to criticize somebody. So it's a real job to finding. It's a real job entirely and you spend time on who's doing well, who's doing well, what are they doing wrong? Because you have to do self-criticism with other people.
[00:04:59] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh. It's exhausting to think about.
[00:05:01] Yeonmi Park: Imagine being in school like middle school, high school as a six years program during the 6 years, how many times do you think you want to criticize somebody every week.
[00:05:09] Jordan Harbinger: Is this weekly?
[00:05:10] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, every Saturday.
[00:05:11] Jordan Harbinger: It's hundreds of times or thousands of times.
[00:05:13] Yeonmi Park: But if you're an artist, it's every two days because they think artists' minds are more vulnerable to change and corrupted by capitalist.
[00:05:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they're right.
[00:05:22] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So they have to do it every two days. Then how many times do you have to hate somebody and criticize your friend, your comrades?
[00:05:30] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:05:30] Yeonmi Park: So that's how they make sure everybody hates each other. Everybody do not trust each other.
[00:05:35] Jordan Harbinger: Since there's no trust, you can't agree with your friend. Like, "All right, today, you complain about my dirty uniform. Tomorrow, I'll complain about you." You can't even make any kind of things.
[00:05:41] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So when everybody's divided, who wins? The party wins.
[00:05:45] Jordan Harbinger: The party wins, yeah.
[00:05:45] Yeonmi Park: Because the division, it helps them. They do everything they can to divide every single one of you. And that's why I was so shocked when I came to America. It's like, people are so trusting. They are so trusting and unbelievable how trusting these people are. I mean talking about your feelings to even a therapist? How do you trust? Is it completely based on trust in here.
[00:06:06] Jordan Harbinger: Your therapist here, even if they aired your dirty laundry, people would just go, "Wow, that's really unprofessional." They wouldn't be like, "Oh, Yeonmi has trauma. That's terrible. We're going to laugh at her." No, we would think the therapist is a terrible human for sharing that, right? It's the opposite. Therapy is a little bit weird coming from a place where you're supposed to denounce and not have any secrets.
[00:06:25] Yeonmi Park: It was weird. Honestly, I don't think I can be completely honest with the therapist because I still have that trauma. But with friends I'm becoming more like open. I just tell them how I feel. That has been amazing because in North Korea, you don't talk about how you feel. Nobody asks how you feel, what you think. So it's a really new thing for me to talk about your feelings here.
[00:06:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's got to be so hard to look at a relationship in North Korea versus a relationship here. You have no model for a healthy like marriage, for example.
[00:07:00] Yeonmi Park: It's zero.
[00:07:01] Jordan Harbinger: Zero.
[00:07:01] Yeonmi Park: It's been very hard.
[00:07:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:03] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:07:04] Jordan Harbinger: When you were married before, did you find it hard to share actual feelings and secrets with your ex-husband?
[00:07:09] Yeonmi Park: I think communication was the main issue.
[00:07:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:11] Yeonmi Park: It was very hard.
[00:07:12] Jordan Harbinger: Because if it's like, "What do you think?" And you're like, "I have no opinion," because you're not used to having, or you'd never thought about it.
[00:07:17] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: Things can bottle up over time.
[00:07:20] Yeonmi Park: Also I think giving the benefit of doubt. In North Korea. If somebody says anything, oh my God, you are reporting on me. You sound to be doing bad at me, right? But here in America, people really give you a benefit of doubt.
[00:07:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we're supposed to, sure, yeah.
[00:07:35] Yeonmi Park: Not in politics, I feel like.
[00:07:37] Jordan Harbinger: Not on Twitter.
[00:07:38] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:07:39] Jordan Harbinger: But everywhere else, yeah.
[00:07:40] Yeonmi Park: When it comes to personal relationships, people do in general. I think people are very charitable here when it comes to interpretation.
[00:07:46] Jordan Harbinger: You said, "Oh, can I be a little bit late to the interview?" I didn't think, "Oh, she doesn't want to do it." I was, "Okay. She's got lunch. It's far away. I don't know. It doesn't matter." Yeah. That's interesting. You're right. We are as a culture — and in fact, it's almost a virtue here to—
[00:08:00] Yeonmi Park: Trust.
[00:08:01] Jordan Harbinger: —trust people, yeah.
[00:08:02] Yeonmi Park: We win. When you trust, everybody wins.
[00:08:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:05] Yeonmi Park: And not the dictators though, they lose.
[00:08:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right, they lose. Authoritarians lose.
[00:08:08] Yeonmi Park: They want you to not to. That's why it's so scary America, just seeing everything for just being me, some are unbelievably scary.
[00:08:16] Jordan Harbinger: What do you think of China heading more towards authoritarianism too? I mean, CCP has never been kind of like a global leader in human rights, but it's definitely getting worse.
[00:08:24] Yeonmi Park: China, at this point, you don't even need a human source to report on them. They got facial recognition, they got social credit system. So what you write online, what you throw on the street, the traffic lights that you don't obey, how you park — everything — how you spend, what you spend on, what you watch, they calculate all your score already for you. So in a way, China is more like — it's not a brave new world. In a way, like if somebody's asking me, would you choose George Orwell's 1984 over Brave World, I would choose a Brave World. I'm so sorry. Rather be dumb and happy and be fed and healthy, right? Because I know what it feels the opposite. I mean, of course I want to be free from suffering. Like where we are right now. But China, it's not like becoming Brave New World. They are in a way like '84, like Big Brother. And I don't think that regime is ever going to make you happy and take care of you.
[00:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: No, I mean, I studied Chinese online and my teachers have told me things. I'll ask them about the social credit score. Often, they don't want to talk about it. But if you develop a little rapport with somebody, they told me that one of their colleagues who is a man, when you use WeChat, which is like their WhatsApp version, it'll say underneath his profile photo, like this person does not pay his debts or something. And his social credit score is low. I forget the exact phrase, but basically like, imagine, I'm sending you a text message, like, "All right, we're ready for you now," and below my profile photo, it says like, "This guy never pays his friends back and isn't allowed to fly on airplanes." It's so creepy, right? And you're just like, "Do I want to do this interview? Jordan's not allowed to fly because he's a bad parker."
[00:10:02] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I mean, it's just unbelievable, like how this world is changing so fast. We thought that democracy was winning, the freedom was winning.
[00:10:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:12] Yeonmi Park: Apparently not.
[00:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: No. Apparently not.
[00:10:14] Yeonmi Park: Apparently not, yeah.
[00:10:15] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. I think a lot of people are wondering how you ended up in the United States, right? Because you can't just walk out of North Korea very easily. In fact, now it's very, it's almost impossible. Now you don't hear about people escaping now because the border has been fortified by China and North Korea, from what I understand.
[00:10:34] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. North Korea literally put, the country can now afford electricity and puts highly electrified wire fences on the entire border of North Korea. So the entire country became a concentration camp. Not only that they put with the machine guns, with the guards, every 10 meters and—
[00:10:51] Jordan Harbinger: Every 10 meters.
[00:10:52] Yeonmi Park: On top of that they buried the landmines.
[00:10:55] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's really extreme.
[00:10:57] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:10:57] Jordan Harbinger: When I was in China a few years ago in Dandong, which I mentioned earlier, we took a boat trip onto that river. And the captain was like — it's all Chinese people, and then me and my friend, and they were like, "Don't take pictures of the North Korean guards who are stationed on the water's edge because they'll get aggressive. It's a Chinese tour. Nobody listens to anybody. So these old Chinese people are raising up their camera and we saw the North Korean guys doing like waving us off. And finally, one got so pissed. He raised up his rifle and aimed it right at the boat. And all those Chinese people just started laughing. And me and my friend were like, "Oh my God, we're gonna die. We're gonna die." And the boat captain comes on and he's yelling in Chinese, and I said, "What's he yelling?" And he said, "Oh, something about don't take photos." These guys have no sense of humor on the North Korean border. These guys are not going to play around.
[00:11:47] Yeonmi Park: I think they captured a lot of American journalists. They were at the border and then doing investigation on North Korea. They came across the border and then captured them, sent back North Korean, put them in the prison.
[00:12:00] Jordan Harbinger: Oof, that's weird.
[00:12:01] Yeonmi Park: Clinton had to go and rescue them, eventually.
[00:12:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, wasn't that Lisa Ling's sister?
[00:12:05] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:12:05] Jordan Harbinger: She said, though, she was trying to run across the river or something like that.
[00:12:08] Yeonmi Park: She wasn't at the North Korean side.
[00:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, she wasn't.
[00:12:11] Yeonmi Park: She was on the Chinese side.
[00:12:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's pretty scary.
[00:12:13] Yeonmi Park: That's when the guards—.
[00:12:15] Jordan Harbinger: Wow, I didn't know that. I thought she had sort of like screwed around by going over there to the photos.
[00:12:20] Yeonmi Park: There was a guy who was like Robert Park, one of the missionaries, he wanted to bring a God's Gospel to North Korea.
[00:12:30] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, no.
[00:12:30] Yeonmi Park: So he walked over from Dandong to North Korea with a Bible on his hand.
[00:12:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's horrible.
[00:12:36] Yeonmi Park: And then they tortured him to the point where he cannot function as a man. And he tried to commit suicide many times afterwards.
[00:12:45] Jordan Harbinger: There's a guy who used to listen to my show named Kenneth Bae. Do you know that guy?
[00:12:48] Yeonmi Park: Oh, yeah, the Canadian.
[00:12:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So he was in prison for like a dozen years or something like that for leaving Bibles around in hotels. The country is extreme as we've discussed here. So the border is more fortified now. I don't want to get too tied down in that.
[00:13:02] How do most people escape in the past? How did most people escape from North Korea?
[00:13:06] Yeonmi Park: Most people escaped in the '90s—
[00:13:08] Jordan Harbinger: In the '90s.
[00:13:09] Yeonmi Park: —when the great famine began? So that's when the regime, also Kim Jong-un didn't actually really care. How can you care if you don't want to stay here, why would you not let them go, right? So he was like, "Okay, let them go." And he was fine with that, but then he realized these people not just only go China, they go to South Korea, they go to America, they go to other countries, they became weighted. What they thought, "They are exposing us now," right? That's how North Korean defector came out and giving the testament to the US state department and the White House.
[00:13:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, doing what you're doing.
[00:13:41] Yeonmi Park: Right. So they were like exposing the regime. So now, North Korea condemned by the UN about the human rights situation. So now, they are, "Okay, now we can not let the defectors escape anymore." And North Koreans when they go, they don't just escape, they go, and they make money and send the money back to their family members. Nobody in North Korea escapes saying, "I'm going to have a good life for myself." They escape because they can sacrifice themselves and make money and send it back to North Korea, to their family members. So then when they send money, they don't just get money. They get information.
[00:14:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:14:12] Yeonmi Park: That is why we're like the biggest killer for the regime. Their lies being exposed.
[00:14:18] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And of course, because if I escaped from North Korea and I'm a waiter in South Korea and I'm sending back the annual salary that my family makes every month and it's only part of my income and I have a low-level job, people start to go, "Wait a minute. So he works at a restaurant in South Korea and he's basically a millionaire compared to how we are. We got to get out of here., right? That's not good. And then word travels fast.
[00:14:38] Yeonmi Park: Exactly.
[00:14:38] Jordan Harbinger: Like, "How come that family has a car now?" Or whatever, right? It's a whole thing.
[00:14:43] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So that's really changed the system. So they stopped the defection. So eventually they started putting more pressure on the border. When Kim Jong-un took over, oh my God, I mean, how can he be worse than his father? But he was a lot worse. His family has a lot of evil.
[00:14:59] Jordan Harbinger: Do you escape from the DPRK? I think a lot of people — by the way, if I say North Korea or DPRK, does it matter?
[00:15:05] Yeonmi Park: It matters.
[00:15:06] Jordan Harbinger: It matters, okay.
[00:15:06] Yeonmi Park: Because the DPRK is the Democratic People—
[00:15:08] Jordan Harbinger: Right, it's a joke of a name.
[00:15:10] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. And that's what North Korea wants to be called.
[00:15:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay, well, then screw them, North Korea.
[00:15:14] Yeonmi Park: That was scary. So, I mean, I don't really care about it when it comes to that. I think that I don't want to respect the regime at all.
[00:15:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[00:15:21] Yeonmi Park: So I crossed the frozen river from North Korea to China, and that was actually right before the wire fences went up.
[00:15:28] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:15:29] Yeonmi Park: I got very lucky.
[00:15:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Charles Ryu told me he basically swam through a river and they were shooting at him, but they probably either didn't have enough bullets or they couldn't see him.
[00:15:38] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:15:39] Jordan Harbinger: And so he made it out as well. Now it seems impossible.
[00:15:42] Yeonmi Park: No. And then when you go to China, Chinese's border is very secure. Back then they were like, "Okay, there are poor people coming over. Maybe we give them some food and then they're going to go back.," right? Usually they did. They go to China. When North Koreans escaped from North Korea, we are not like Syriana or Mexican refugees. There's a democracy somewhere. That we want to go where the freedom is, right? We are starving. So we just want to go somewhere that they give us food. And if we get food, we want to go back to our homeland. So a lot of North Koreans did and go to China, begged for food and come home and feed their family members and their friends. And China had no problem with it, but then they also saw how North Korean women were going after and then started condemning the human trafficking that they face. The China, also North Koreans complained to them. "This is our national security. If you let North Koreans go out, it hurts us. Can you catch them and send them back?"
[00:16:39] Jordan Harbinger: So China wants a buffer state between South Korea and the United States, presence in South Korea, and North Korea is that buffer state. And also, I think, tell me if you agree with this, there's an element of the Chinese Communist Party saying, "Hey, you think we're terrible, but at least we're not North Korea. Look how bad it is over there," and as long as that regime exists, they can sort of say like, "We're the only ones who can control them."
[00:16:59] Yeonmi Park: But that's that thing, they are using us as leverage with the USA, because North Korea is only solved by China. North Korea only exists because of China.
[00:17:09] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, yeah.
[00:17:10] Yeonmi Park: Kim Jong-un cannot exist without Xi Jinping. So when the US wanted to discuss about North Korea as threat, they have to go back to Chinese. So that's why they are using us as leverage, diplomatic leverage that is.
[00:17:23] Jordan Harbinger: It's so sociopathic to me that there are politicians going, "We're just going to let all these people suffer because it keeps this guy in power, which keeps us from having to worry about other issues."
[00:17:34] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:17:35] Jordan Harbinger: It's just so crazy to me that that even is, it just sort of shows you like how much bullsh*t we tell ourselves about caring about the integrity of people like human rights. I mean, it's just pure nonsense.
[00:17:47] Yeonmi Park: It's laughable. It's a joke.
[00:17:50] Jordan Harbinger: It's pure, not like we can see the concentration camps. We know that there are people in there that are miserable. We have countless accounts of this and it's like, "Oh, well, we'll talk about it, again, maybe later."
[00:17:59] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, I mean Kim Jong-un this year said that like 11 millions of his population are severely malnourished. He's not even bothered to lie at this point. He used to lie like, "Oh, look at us. We are happy, strong country." Like this year, he's like, "Yeah, they are starving. So what?" That exactly — so what?
[00:18:15] Jordan Harbinger: No accountability at all anymore.
[00:18:17] Yeonmi Park: No.
[00:18:18] Jordan Harbinger: Not that they ever will.
[00:18:18] Yeonmi Park: They don't even pretend.
[00:18:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah, no pretense.
[00:18:21] Yeonmi Park: You don't have to pretend anymore because what can you do? We've got the nukes. We have the power. So what can you do?
[00:18:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God. How did you get the idea to escape? Was it just you were hungry, right?
[00:18:31] Yeonmi Park: I was hungry. And then if you see North Korea at night from the satellite picture is like the darkest place in the world. It got no electricity. So in the border town, I was looking at Chinese side and they had the lights coming out and they had a high road, like ways were cars going by. So we also had the rumors in North Korea saying that China dogs eat rice. So Kim Il-sung promised us that, "I'm going to make sure that my people are going to eat white rice with meat stew."
[00:19:03] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, meat stew, okay.
[00:19:04] Yeonmi Park: So all North Korean wanted to all their life and dying for the revolution was to eat the white rice and meat stew. It wasn't like if we want to get private jet.
[00:19:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right, the bar is pretty low.
[00:19:15] Yeonmi Park: Very, very low, right? Any country in like some Southern East Asia, they can feed all these people with chicken and rice. That's like nothing. And that's what we promised. And that's the communist cannot achieve that dream at all. They're so poor. In North Korea, we heard that like dogs eat white rice in China. And I thought, that's the most bizarre thing I've ever heard. How on earth there's a place that dog eats rice?
[00:19:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right, like how can that be?
[00:19:43] Yeonmi Park: How can that be? It's almost like somebody telling you, Oh, the aliens came and took you and then they come visit every night." Like that kind of most absurd thing you hear.
[00:19:53] Jordan Harbinger: Like, why would you feed a dog rice? It just doesn't compute.
[00:19:56] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, no. I mean, in North Korea dogs eat poop, literally. That's how they survive.
[00:20:00] Jordan Harbinger: And then people are trying to steal it from them to get that poop quota as you mentioned.
[00:20:04] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:20:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh. So you're hungry and you just say," Hey look, if they've got electricity and cars, they probably have food," right?
[00:20:10] Yeonmi Park: That's right though. I guess maybe there's food. It's like I was watching this documentary the other day about 9/11. There are people who are jumping out of that building.
[00:20:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:19] Yeonmi Park: Exactly that situation. I don't know if I jumped out, there is a life for me, but what can you do? The building is burning and you have no way out. So you got to jump and see what happens. That's how North Koreans do it.
[00:20:33] Jordan Harbinger: That's how you felt just—
[00:20:34] Yeonmi Park: Of course.
[00:20:35] Jordan Harbinger: I might die doing this, but I'm definitely going to die hungry here.
[00:20:38] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, I mean, there was no chance of me surviving in that country if I didn't escape. So why don't I just jump and see what happens?
[00:20:45] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. And so how did you hatch the plan?
[00:20:48] Yeonmi Park: I had an older sister who I was 13 and I had a sister who was a 16 in 2007. She escaped first few days before me and she left me a note, saying go find this lady, she's going to help you. So I went to her with my mom and then she said like, "Yeah, I can help you to go to China." But I was so desperate. It was no point of me even asking her, why are you helping me?
[00:21:12] Jordan Harbinger: Also, if you already don't trust anyone, this is a desperate sort of Hail Mary move anyways.
[00:21:17] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:21:18] Jordan Harbinger: So why, why bother getting the details, right?
[00:21:20] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, it doesn't matter even if she cares to me, I'm dead anyway. It didn't occur to me that I had to ask her, why you helping me? Because you are so desperate.
[00:21:29] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:21:29] Yeonmi Park: Whatever thing is going to get you out, you want to get out.
[00:21:35] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Yeonmi Park. We'll be right back.
[00:21:40] This episode is sponsored in part by Ten Thousand. Did I tell you I've been working out? Quite a bit three times a week, in fact, in my garage doing box jumps, squats, getting my glutes going, doing a little mobility to keep myself limber and strong in my crusty geriatric age — you can tell Jen wrote this copy. If you're looking for great workout gear, Ten Thousand cannot be beat. What's unique about Ten Thousand is that they have a development team of 200 athletes. I am not one of those athletes, but these are actual professional runners and gym owners. They live in the gear. They live in the Ten Thousand stuff every single day. They're constantly improving upon the product and I've been putting Ten Thousands on my butt as well. I highly recommend their session shorts and their interval shorts, which I actually bought a bunch of. I also love the tech hoodie. It's the best hoodie I've ever owned. It's a staple you should have in your closet. This thing is soft and it looks awesome at the same time. Ten Thousand has over 10,000 which sounds awkward. So we got to get them to 11,00 five-star reviews, not surprisingly.
[00:22:32] Jen Harbinger: Ten Thousand is offering our listeners 15 percent off your purchase. Go to tenthousand.cc and enter code JORDAN to receive 15 percent off your purchase. That's tenthousand.cc and enter code JORDAN.
[00:22:45] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by ZipRecruiter. There are some things in life I like to pick out myself, so I know I've got the one that's best, audio stuff, shoes, basically stuff I put in or on my body. What if you could do the same thing for hiring? Choose your ideal candidate before they even apply. That's where ZipRecruiter's Invite to Apply comes in. It gives you, as the hiring manager, the power to pick your favorites from the top candidates. And right now, you can try it for free at ziprecruiter.com/jordan. The way it works, you post a job on ZipRecruiter. They send you the most qualified people for the job. You review them. You invite your top choices to apply. And ZipRecruiter's internal data shows that jobs where employers use Invite to Apply get on average two and a half times more candidates, which helps make for a faster hiring process. Can't beat it.
[00:23:26] Jen Harbinger: See for yourself. Just go to this exclusive web address, ziprecruiter.com/J-O-R-D-A-N to try ZipRecruiter for free. That's ziprecruiter.com/jordan. ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire.
[00:23:38] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm and helps redefine what it means to be rich. It's easy to get bogged down and material success when the currency of the new rich is getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. For me, I enjoy the simple pleasures, like the ability to spend quality time with my son and family. That is a life well lived in my humble opinion. And Glenfiddich is something I've enjoyed for years. And most importantly, they've compensated me handsomely to let you know that they do not outsource any part of the production process. Like the majority of whisky companies do. It would save them a lot of cost if they did, but Glenfiddich believes that controlling the process from distillation to maturation to bottling is essential to maintaining the highest quality and integrity of our whisky. It's no wonder that Glenfiddich is the number one selling single malt scotch whisky in the world.
[00:24:24] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted, enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons Inc. New York, New York.
[00:24:31] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks so much for listening to and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is what keeps the lights on around here. We take all those discount codes and special URLs, and we put them all in one place. So you don't have to memorize them. You can check out all of the sponsors for yourself at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support us. jordanharbinger.com/deals is where that is.
[00:24:52] And don't forget, we've got worksheets for many episodes. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show in one easy place, that link is in the show notes. jordanharbinger.com/podcast is where you can find it.
[00:25:04] Now back to Yeonmi Park.
[00:25:08] You end up being trafficked and sold in China. And the whole is in the book by the way, which we'll link in the show notes. I'm not going to make you go through it again because you do talk about it a lot in other shows as well. But this situation is, by all accounts, horrifying and harrowing, and you end up having to sell your own mother for food. It's just like the sneak preview is it's some of the most terrible things that you can imagine happening. And it happens over and over and over. And the people that you meet are all universally exploiting you and everyone who they come into contact with. This is like the underbelly of sort of Chinese mafia, human trafficking, right?
[00:25:48] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:25:48] Jordan Harbinger: So how do you eventually get away from that situation?
[00:25:52] Yeonmi Park: North Korean women go to China because of the one child policy. Right now, there are 40 million men who cannot find women, especially in the rural areas and the numbers keep going up. So women are being sorted in four different places. One is human trafficking, where you're sold to a man in the village who have a disability or crazy or whatever it is. So sometime, they buy one girl and rotate to the entire town or rotate to entire brothers in that family and cousins.
[00:26:20] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow, so you're basically a sex slave at that point.
[00:26:23] Yeonmi Park: Of course.
[00:26:23] Jordan Harbinger: Not like a regular wife.
[00:26:24] Yeonmi Park: You're now-wife, they watch you when you go to bathroom, they don't want you to run away. So that's one. Second place is where the prostitution. They put you in all these brothers get raped like 20 times a day and then women refused. So they give you drugs. So they make you become a drug addict. So women just do it because they want the drug. So you have got raped 20, 30 times a day by the said brothers. Third is where you go to organ harvesting. China is biggest export of organs.
[00:26:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I did a whole show about this.
[00:26:57] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, so they also use North Koreans to secure them and take the organs out. The last place is the chatroom where these brokers put in us setting another facility where they lock the door and putting these girls in front of the cam and the customers such as South Koreans, and then show their bisex cam. So among the four, what would you choose?
[00:27:18] Jordan Harbinger: Like all jokes aside? I would obviously choose the cam girl option because at least I'm not getting touched.
[00:27:22] Yeonmi Park: Touched or actually get raped by people. Nobody comes to your room.
[00:27:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:27:26] Yeonmi Park: You just show them your body. So I chose that.
[00:27:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:29] Yeonmi Park: Initially I was sold by a man and I was raped. And then at the end of the journey, I was finally able to go to chatroom. There I heard about South Korea and I heard that there is a way out of China.
[00:27:40] Jordan Harbinger: But you already knew South Korea existed, right?
[00:27:42] Yeonmi Park: But not like Daehan Min-guk, like Namjoson the Southern of North Korea. They are fighting the language so much. So Joseon is Korea. South Korea, they called North Korea, like Bokutō like north of Korea.
[00:27:56] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:56] Yeonmi Park: South Korea, but their name is Daehan Min-guk. And we call them like south of North Korea.
[00:28:03] Jordan Harbinger: Really? So North Korea just called South Korea, Southern North Korea.
[00:28:07] Yeonmi Park: Yes.
[00:28:07] Jordan Harbinger: That's ridiculous.
[00:28:08] Yeonmi Park: And South Korea calls them like Northern South Korea.
[00:28:11] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh.
[00:28:12] Yeonmi Park: So the language difference was huge. And then I did not know that I was a North Korean. In North Korean, they told me I'm a Joseon. Did you hear about the Joseon?
[00:28:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I've heard that word.
[00:28:23] Yeonmi Park: So Joseon is what we knew of. So South Korea did not have a name Joseon at all. He has like, Daehan Min-guk. I was like, what the heck is Daehan Min-guk? I did not know that was like our Southern part of North Korea was. And then I was talking to these people and they said, "I am from Daehan Min-guk." And I was like, "What is Daehan Min-guk?" And then we had a defector friend who was working in the chat too. And she said, "I know they're missionaries. And then if you go study Bible with them, and then they're going to have us to escape South Korea." By then I was 15 years old.
[00:28:53] Jordan Harbinger: 15.
[00:28:54] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So I was there in two years in China.
[00:28:57] Jordan Harbinger: Two years, two years of unspeakable sort of treatment and then Bible study. And this is your introduction to sex, right? You said before, you had no idea that concept of sex until your mother was sexually assaulted, essentially right in front of you. And then that became your daily existence for those few years.
[00:29:13] So you're doing this Bible study with the missionaries. And then how did they prepare you to escape? Like, what's their plan?
[00:29:19] Yeonmi Park: Pray and fasting.
[00:29:21] Jordan Harbinger: Pray and fasting. Did you tell them you already spent your life fasting and it didn't help.
[00:29:27] Yeonmi Park: A lot of fasting and praying and memorizing the Bible verses.
[00:29:32] Jordan Harbinger: So there's no practical training for here's how you're going to escape.
[00:29:35] Yeonmi Park: No. They don't give you physical training. They don't give you gear. They don't give you the right clothing. It's just you need a miracle to do it, which is you because you are going to go across the Gobi Desert into Mongolia from China in the minus 40 degrees,
[00:29:48] Jordan Harbinger: Gobi Desert on foot in negative 40 degrees and just hope that you end up in Mongolia.
[00:29:53] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. And then discovered by human beings in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
[00:29:56] Jordan Harbinger: What the hell kind of plan is that?
[00:29:58] Yeonmi Park: So your survival rate is very, very low, like 99 percent, you're not going to make it.
[00:30:03] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:30:04] Yeonmi Park: And you're going to get caught by soldiers. So you need a miracle. That's why they make you pray and truly like waiting for God's sign to go.
[00:30:12] Jordan Harbinger: I know you help people escape now. And I assume you have a better, slightly better plan.
[00:30:16] Yeonmi Park: Oh, we don't use — we use cars and transport them to Thailand.
[00:30:20] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds a good idea, yeah.
[00:30:21] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. But we didn't have money. We have to raise money to transport them, drive them, but going to Mongolia, you don't need a broker. They just give you a compass. Why don't you walk, follow the north and the west part and then cross the eight wire fences. And hopefully, that's going to be Mongolia or something.
[00:30:40] Jordan Harbinger: That is just mind blowing. So you're crossing the Gobi desert. How long does it take?
[00:30:45] Yeonmi Park: It only took one day.
[00:30:46] Jordan Harbinger: One day.
[00:30:46] Yeonmi Park: Because we chose the coldest time of the year. So the guards would think like, "Who's going to be crazy enough to—?" Because other times the security is so tight. And there are guards in China preventing nobody can escape. They're going to shoot you. So if you choose a call this time, then even though some are very high secure, tight the border, that's the people think, "Oh, nobody's crazy enough to cross right now."
[00:31:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They're watching movies and smoking inside.
[00:31:11] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, it's freezing. They don't want to go outside even then. So we chose that time and then we crossed the one day, but the hardest thing in the desert is that you don't know if you're going straight or backwards on the side or so circle. Because nothing tells you, indicate you you're going forward.
[00:31:28] Jordan Harbinger: You just have a compass. And you're like, I hope this thing works.
[00:31:30] Yeonmi Park: That is in the middle of the ocean.
[00:31:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:31:33] Yeonmi Park: Nothing cares where you're going.
[00:31:35] Jordan Harbinger: There's no landmarks on the horizon.
[00:31:37] Yeonmi Park: Nothing. So that was like, where I shouted. Like, "I'm not sure if I'm just keep going circle and circle. We did hear rumors where there's some defectors do that. Go days in circle. It's the same thing again, again. Come back to the same spot. So then we go like, okay, let's leave our stuff here. So when we come back, maybe we came back here. That's how we went, moved along, leaving some stuff, and knowing we've been here. Thankfully, we only got discovered next day by Mongolian soldiers.
[00:32:03] Jordan Harbinger: So the Mongolian soldiers are used to seeing North Koreans crossing the border over these wire fences. So then is it a warm welcome or is it kind of like you just get arrested.
[00:32:12] Yeonmi Park: They use a gun, like put your hands up and you crossed the border illegally, so it doesn't matter if you're a child or not. And then they told us they're going to send us to China back and then send to North Korea.
[00:32:23] Jordan Harbinger: Which they are not really going to do.
[00:32:24] Yeonmi Park: They have done that.
[00:32:25] Jordan Harbinger: They have done that.
[00:32:26] Yeonmi Park: Because it's so inconvenient for them to call back to base called the top people, getting South Korean, so much work for them. So if they can hide, I mean, usually South Chinese soldiers don't even bother to arrest you, just shoot them all, and the animals come to eat you.
[00:32:39] Jordan Harbinger: They just shoot you.
[00:32:40] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:32:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:32:40] Yeonmi Park: In the border there's a shoot-to-kill order. They don't bother to arrest you. You got to shoot them if you see any foreign object. So they just don't want to be bothered, too much work for them, too much paperwork. They have to fill out, when we caught them, how we caught them, right? So they just shoot you, and then animals are going do the job for them.
[00:32:59] Jordan Harbinger: That's awful. Okay. So obviously that didn't happen to you. You got taken in by Mongolian military, border guards.
[00:33:06] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. The border guards, and then they said they were going to send us back. So we are going to kill ourselves, right?
[00:33:11] Jordan Harbinger: Your plan was to kill yourself.
[00:33:13] Yeonmi Park: I mean, North Koreans are like Jewish people when there was Holocaust.
[00:33:16] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:33:17] Yeonmi Park: We're all ready to die when we get called. And then they eventually swear in and help us to go to South Korea.
[00:33:24] Jordan Harbinger: The thing that I don't understand and that I can't quite wrap my mind around is they've seen refugees come across the border over and over. It's not like this is the first time they've seen it. I don't know why they can't have a plan for this, or they're saying, "Oh, we're going to send you back." I mean, they must know that what they're doing is heartless and cruel and they just don't care.
[00:33:40] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I mean, for them, this is fun.
[00:33:42] Jordan Harbinger: It's fun for them.
[00:33:43] Yeonmi Park: It's so fun to see people begging for their life. And so that's depressing. That's the thing, human nature is horrible. When humans are not being educated and civilized, you can become barbarians.
[00:33:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. .
[00:33:56] Yeonmi Park: And this is the thing about human nature that, you know, not special people became the guards in the concentration camp, in the Nazi Germany. Normal people did that. And I think that's why we need to be aware of our nature. Kids were just never knew what compassion was like, I guess, it was really fun for them. And we didn't get killed but one of my friend's, my mom's friend, she swallowed the pills and then after they had to take her to hospital and then she never came back fully.
[00:34:26] Jordan Harbinger: Because she thought they were going to send her back.
[00:34:28] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, because that's what they said.
[00:34:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right, which is evil.
[00:34:31] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:34:31] Jordan Harbinger: What separates you, someone who escaped North Korea versus somebody who decides to stay? What do you think the difference is?
[00:34:38] Yeonmi Park: Somebody, if they can afford to stay behind, I guess they are not as desperate as me. For me, it was if I didn't escape, I would not even make it a few more days to because I just didn't have food.
[00:34:51] Jordan Harbinger: So you weren't thinking like freedom. You're just thinking of rice.
[00:34:54] Yeonmi Park: Just food.
[00:34:55] Jordan Harbinger: Food, anything.
[00:34:56] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:34:57] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:34:57] Yeonmi Park: Getting starved is worse than being raped. The worst torture is being starved because if you don't need you die and before you die from starvation, you hallucinate, you lose your mind. That's how most undignified way of time from starvation. That's why cannibalism is happening in North Korea because they hallucinate.
[00:35:16] Jordan Harbinger: Cannibalism.
[00:35:17] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So mothers eat their children because they thought their children were dogs. Because they go crazy when you don't eat. And then they wake up and they're like, "What happened to my child?" And then they just eat.
[00:35:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:35:28] Yeonmi Park: It's a weird story.
[00:35:30] Jordan Harbinger: You're getting these stories, I assume, through the network of other defectors.
[00:35:34] Yeonmi Park: United Nation documents at the COI report. And it's based on a true story. There was a director who made a movie too. And in North Korea, when we were there, actually the policeman was saying, he follows a mom who was holding their baby, going near the river, and then making a fire, and then boiling the water. And then she was supposed to boil her baby there, so the policeman calls. So these are the things you hear when you're in North Korea. So, I mean, we hear like, just don't go buy the meat in the black market. There was somebody selling meat, very cheap price. And we all know what they're selling.
[00:36:10] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, you can tell by the bones also in the meat.
[00:36:13] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. Thankfully I was so poor that we couldn't offer the meat so we didn't have to go there.
[00:36:18] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Yeah. So people are selling like their own children's meat in the market.
[00:36:23] Yeonmi Park: A lot of people die from starvation.
[00:36:24] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:36:25] Yeonmi Park: So you can just grab them. There are bodies floatin on the rivers. At the train station when you go there, tons of bodies are stacked, so they can just get them and serve the bones and make the broth.
[00:36:37] Jordan Harbinger: What's up with the dead bodies at the train station, because I've seen dead bodies in North Korea. And the weirdest part is I'll see it and 15 other people will see it. And our guides will say, "I don't know what you're talking about." Like they're pretending that they can't see it.
[00:36:49] Yeonmi Park: Wow.
[00:36:51] Jordan Harbinger: On the road at the train station.
[00:36:53] Yeonmi Park: In North Korea, trains from one city to the other city, in South Korea, it takes 30 minutes, takes months sometimes because no electricity, you have to push your train.
[00:37:02] Jordan Harbinger: You have to push the train?
[00:37:03] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:37:04] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, that's not possible. How do you do that?
[00:37:06] Yeonmi Park: You do — hundreds of thousands of people come. I'm going to show you the picture later after this.
[00:37:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:11] Yeonmi Park: That you can use in the video if you want to, what it looks like.
[00:37:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We'll link it in the show notes. If you want it, just text it to me.
[00:37:17] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. You can push the train.
[00:37:18] Jordan Harbinger: I guess if there's hundreds of people pushing the back of a train, it'll move a little bit. That's wild though. I mean, you're not going up a hill, that's for sure.
[00:37:26] Yeonmi Park: Sometimes, yeah, we hear that train cannot go, electric so low, then people have to go help the train out.
[00:37:32] Jordan Harbinger: This is just un-freaking-believable. I mean, you got to think if you're running that country, you know that it's a horrible place and you've done nothing to improve the situation. Do you think Kim Jong-un is evil himself or is he just part of the system that's set up by his father and grandfather and he's trapped? Because he's got to know what's going on. He went to school in Switzerland, so he knows exactly what's going on.
[00:37:52] Yeonmi Park: He knows human right is—
[00:37:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:54] Yeonmi Park: —how humans are supposed to be treated. But that's why he's a pure evil.
[00:37:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:58] Yeonmi Park: Like he's not brainwashed. He has seen the real world. So you cannot say that he was brainwashed, he has no choice. No, he has seen the world. The elites of North Korea study, they go shopping in Paris, literally. They go ski in Switzerland. I mean, they go to the best places in the world and travel and study. They live like the kings and queens and Kim Jong-un has his own pleasure squad.
[00:38:22] Jordan Harbinger: What is the pleasure squad? Because I read about this and it's a pervy question. So pardon me. But people are curious about this.
[00:38:28] Yeonmi Park: So pleasure squad is every year the officials have to meet their quota again. Everything's quota as the order from the party. Every region has to submit a girl who is a virgin and who is pretty and meet all governments data. Like the measures, height, look, all of it, right? And also family backgrounds. So each year they collect all the girls from entire country. And the only the ones pretty enough, and the good backgrounds and the virgins going to Pyongyang. From there, they always select, giving Kim Jong-un the picture, like, "Who do you want this year?" So he picked 25 for a year. Each year, he gets only 25. I don't know, like only 25 women girlfriends, that's a lot.
[00:39:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It seems like a lot, especially for a guy who Kim Jong-un who's not in great shape. And his father was in even worse shape. I mean, these are old dudes. They're probably not — well, I won't go there.
[00:39:18] Yeonmi Park: Yes. And then other girls go to other top officials, then they divide these girls into different groups, like satisfaction group. It's the sex group. The happiness group is the massage group. Third group is like health care. They give them other health issues. All these girls are being trained for that. And their prime ages are around from 16 or 17 to 20 to 23.
[00:39:41] Jordan Harbinger: What did the parents think? Do they know that this is what's happening? Or are they like, "Oh, you're going to learn how to dance," or something.
[00:39:46] Yeonmi Park: It's the most glorious thing that you're going to serve your nation.
[00:39:49] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:39:49] Yeonmi Park: Not only that, the North Koreans is that when you go, you know you don't get paid, but you get fed. If you fed three times a day in North Korea, you are the most privileged person in there. So in America, all these people are get fed and talking about how hard it is like, I don't get it.
[00:40:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you mean all of us are fat because we're eating too much and we can't stop.
[00:40:09] Yeonmi Park: No, no, no, no. Here in America, to be happy, it takes a lot more.
[00:40:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, sure, yeah.
[00:40:14] Yeonmi Park: But in North Korea, being fed is the biggest privilege you can get in your life. So when these girls go there, they're going to be fed. So their parents are so happy.
[00:40:23] Jordan Harbinger: I thought you said fat, my bad.
[00:40:24] Yeonmi Park: Oh, no, no, no.
[00:40:25] Jordan Harbinger: Fed.
[00:40:26] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:40:26] Jordan Harbinger: Because it must be weird coming from — look, you're in the United States, you look around you're in the Midwest. You're in Chicago. There's a lot of fat people around. And they're, "I can't lose weight. I can't stop eating." I mean, that must have been jarring to see when you arrived here.
[00:40:39] Yeonmi Park: I did have some sympathetic issue in the beginning, coming to America. Like I just never knew having too much could be a problem. Like I just never knew when the world is like diet. It does create the most desired man, Kim Jong-un, like big belly and baldly hair. That means if you are bald, you're eating fat food or something.
[00:40:58] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:40:58] Yeonmi Park: And if you have a big belly, you have a status, you are very powerful because most of the people are starving. And in America now, they're talking about, in South Korea, too obsessed with diet.
[00:41:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:08] Yeonmi Park: What the hell is diet, right? And here also people said like, "Food is a problem. There's too much. The obesity is killing us." I'm like, "Just don't eat. Nobody forcing you to eat."
[00:41:20] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:41:21] Yeonmi Park: I know it's interesting. It's all about perspective.
[00:41:24] Jordan Harbinger: So this squad of girls, they're young and then they end up doing this for, until they're of marriage age or something and they just go back home.
[00:41:32] Yeonmi Park: No, because they have seen too much.
[00:41:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:34] Yeonmi Park: So the regime, they are like when they take your daughters, it's like you gave them to your nation so don't ever look them back. So these girls don't ever reach out to their parents ever again in their lifetime. So when you take these girls and then when they graduate, then they match them with the guards who guard Jong-un, John, guard the public, guard the people. Those guards are sealed a lot. So they are forever sealed from the public. The regime made the marriage other.
[00:42:02] Jordan Harbinger: What a miserable existence.
[00:42:04] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. You don't even choose your partner, just being chosen and then you get grouped. They marry and then forever you cannot talk about what you have seen.
[00:42:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, so you never see your family again.
[00:42:16] Yeonmi Park: Never. You don't even hear back from them ever again.
[00:42:19] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard that when people escape their extended family — I mean, we talked about the three generations, eight generations. So if someone escapes or is a defector, what happens to their family in North Korea?
[00:42:29] Yeonmi Park: Depending on the status of your family.
[00:42:32] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:42:32] Yeonmi Park: Also the punishment was a lot lower during the Kim Jong-il's time, the second Kim. Kim Jong-il didn't really care in the beginning that people escaping in the '90s. They're like, "Ooh, if they don't like it, you just let them go. Why do we bother?" So back then, my family was also lower class. They got interrogated and tortured a little bit in the beginning, but they all got sent free. A lot of North Korean defectors, like now in America, there are low number. Overall only 200 North Koreans made it to America during the last, almost like 80 years.
[00:43:05] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:43:05] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. Two hundred or seven or something like that. And somehow America doesn't want a lot of North Koreans to come either.
[00:43:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh really? I didn't know that.
[00:43:15] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, they don't like North Korean refugees that much. I had to call me as a South Korean, get all the working visa, like it's impossible to come to America if you're a South Korean. North Koreans usually go to South Korea. So now, there are 33,000 North Koreans made it to South Korea during the last 80 years. And so most of them are not high class, but the top class, when they do the family, like three to eight generations, does get punished.
[00:43:41] Jordan Harbinger: Is this a complex issue for you? Like, do you know what happened to your family back in North Korea?
[00:43:46] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. So when I spoke out against the regime in 2014, that's when they use all my families, including my neighbors to denounce me and there's videos on the YouTube. And then they got all disappeared. I actually have those people in the network that I used to get information out, they all got vanished.
[00:44:06] Jordan Harbinger: Those people are probably dead then.
[00:44:08] Yeonmi Park: Most likely, yeah.
[00:44:10] Jordan Harbinger: There has to be a complex issue for you.
[00:44:11] Yeonmi Park: That was the thing, when I was speaking out, I knew I was risking my life, but I really didn't think that the regime was going to be threatened by a 13-year-old, who escaped North Korea, who does not even have a military, like secret. All I was saying is what you see on the Google satellite, pictures of concentration camps and starvation that were documented—
[00:44:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:44:31] Yeonmi Park: —by the UN. So I thought like, what am I revealing that is new? I did not know, but because you do not pay, that's the treason, right? You escape.
[00:44:43] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Yeonmi Park. We'll be right back.
[00:44:48] This episode is sponsored in part by Cuts Clothing. Every single day, you make thousands of decisions, some important, most are trivial taken up mental energy, what to eat for lunch, what aware. With the demands of modern life, your wardrobe needs to be as versatile as you are. Cuts Clothing's founder understands that successful people spend less time making decisions and more brain power for everything else. He hated having to compromise between style and comfort. So we started by reinventing the humble plain tee, which sounds easy, but I've always had a hard time finding a tee this buttery soft with the right thickness and with the cut I like. GQ even calls it the only shirt worth wearing, which to me sounds like you're supposed to go shirtless if you can't get one of these, but you can get one of these and I'll tell you how in a second. Cuts became world famous for making shirts that look as great as they feel, whatever life throws your way. And now they're reinventing work leisure below the waist as well.
[00:45:35] Jen Harbinger: It's not just the lifestyle, it's not just clothing, it's work-leisure apparel for the sport of business. Get 15 percent off your first order at cutsclothing.com/jordan. That's cutsclothing.com/jordan for 15 percent off your first order.
[00:45:49] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Better Help online therapy. The best way to think about therapy is through a bunch of analogies. Therapy, it's like tending a garden. You may have buried, anxious or depressed feelings deep into the soil and therapy will be like telling and uncovering these feelings that need to be released. Pull out the old weeds and make space for new seeds to be planted. Therapy doesn't mean something is wrong with you, by the way, it means you're investing in yourself to keep your mind healthy. And I'm a huge fan of that. Better Help is customized online therapy that offers video, phone, even live chat sessions with your therapist. So you don't have to see anyone on camera if you don't want to. And I never want to, it's much more affordable than in-person therapy, and you can start communicating with your therapist in under 48 hours. Why invest in everything else and not in your mind?
[00:46:32] Jen Harbinger: For 10 percent off your first month, visit betterhelp.com/jordan. That's better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan and join over two million people who've taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional.
[00:46:43] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by Edmunds. Have you noticed how hot the car market is lately? Demand for used cars, especially is back in full swing. Buying a car is one of the biggest purchasing decisions you can make right now, and can be especially difficult by the way, Edmunds has been taking the stress out of the entire car shopping process for over 50 years, we've outgrown our little cars, so we're considering upgrading soon. And the first step is to get an appraisal. We used Edmund's free vehicle appraisal tool, which gives you an accurate price for your vehicle in as little as a minute, they won't ask for your personal info and you won't be contacted by annoying third parties, appraising your cars, the first step to getting a good return for it. Vehicles depreciate over time, obviously. So it's important to know where yours stands, knowing its value will help you determine what steps to take next. Will you be trading it in? You're going to sell it. You're going to give the dang thing away. You can even get an instant cash offer for your trade-in online at Edmunds.
[00:47:33] Jen Harbinger: Car shopping can be stressful. Edmunds is here to help. Visit edmunds.com to get your free online appraisal today and start searching for vehicles in your area. That's E-D-M-U-N-D-S.com. For cars there's Edmunds.
[00:47:46] Jordan Harbinger: And now for the conclusion of our episode with Yeonmi Park.
[00:47:51] Do you feel a sense of duty to these people to spread the message far and wide? Because they essentially have made a sacrifice.
[00:47:59] Yeonmi Park: Of course.
[00:47:59] Jordan Harbinger: Unwilling sacrifice.
[00:48:00] Yeonmi Park: I mean, that's the thing. Freedom is not free. I pay the immense price to have this voice. And I don't know when I'm going to get killed, but the thing is there are so many people dying to be free and freedom is not free. I think they will see that. It's impossible, it's so hard to be free from the dictator.
[00:48:19] Jordan Harbinger: Is there anything that they say in North Korea about the west or about America that turned out to be true?
[00:48:28] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, one thing was true when I was in San Francisco. They said America is filled with the homeless. I mean back then in North Korea, you don't even have the freedom to be homeless. You go to prison if you want to be homeless, but you have to work for the party. But it was true when I came to America, there's so much freedom. Just everybody can decide to be homeless and nobody arrest me for that. So I was like, wow, I guess it was true. But then I did the volunteering work at the homeless shelter. They had a refrigerator, they had soda in there. They had a mattress in their bunker beds. And they had electricity. So I was thinking, why does being homeless is much better than North Koreans lives life.
[00:49:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's true. Internet on your phone.
[00:49:11] Yeonmi Park: And they have computers in the shelter. They're like what? They have internet. That was the only thing. And the other thing was, they said like, Americans don't even have water, so they eat snow.
[00:49:22] Jordan Harbinger: I've seen this same propaganda where they say, "You're limited to one cup of snow per day."
[00:49:27] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:49:27] Jordan Harbinger: I saw that in North Korea and just watched that.
[00:49:30] Yeonmi Park: There are no birds in America because people eat the birds.
[00:49:32] Jordan Harbinger: They say that about the United States—
[00:49:33] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:49:34] Jordan Harbinger: —even though that's totally—
[00:49:35] Yeonmi Park: It's North Korea, but now I come and there's so many pigeons. If you see one pigeon in North Korea, everybody goes after that pigeon, right? You never see that ever again.
[00:49:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:49:44] Yeonmi Park: So there's really no birds in North Korea. They'll all catch them and eat. In America. there's so many birds.
[00:49:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I mean, people complain about the birds—
[00:49:51] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:49:52] Jordan Harbinger: —even in New York. "Ah, there's stupid pigeons everywhere.
[00:49:54] Yeonmi Park: It's amazing nobody eats them.
[00:49:57] Jordan Harbinger: So you thought white people were cold-blooded as well, right? Like literally.
[00:50:01] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I mean, they say, when the Americans, we don't think Americans are like American Mexicans or Hispanic or like African American, we don't know. American, which is one type, because they don't teach us about race.
[00:50:14] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:15] Yeonmi Park: So I didn't even know that I was Asian. So how do I know there are different race in America.
[00:50:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:19] Yeonmi Park: So they draw the painting for you.
[00:50:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The Americans have these giant noses.
[00:50:23] Yeonmi Park: Big giant nose and green eyes.
[00:50:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:25] Yeonmi Park: And it goes to USA and they look like monsters. And they said like snakes, cold blooded. They don't even have a heart. They're like monsters, pure monsters. So when I came to America, I was like really shocked.
[00:50:38] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, at that point you realized they'd lied to you about everything else, right?
[00:50:42] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, I mean, by then, but until I read Animal Farm by George Orwell, it was really hard. Like how do I trust again? Because I mean, they told me, everything that I believed in was a lie.
[00:50:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:55] Yeonmi Park: I'm like, so how do I know what you're telling me is not a lie.
[00:50:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's a valid point.
[00:50:59] Yeonmi Park: It's like in the Matrix, right? It's like, you just don't know.
[00:51:02] Jordan Harbinger: Like the Matrix.
[00:51:03] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, you just don't know. Am I in the thing or not? Right?
[00:51:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:07] Yeonmi Park: So I had that for years of that time where I couldn't truzst.
[00:51:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that would be really difficult to come here and make friends while trying to also reconcile that maybe these are reptile people with cold blood or that you're not sure if they're lying to you now. And you're just caught in another version of the Matrix, like you said.
[00:51:25] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:51:26] Jordan Harbinger: Do you miss anything about North Korea? Like some of your friends and family, sure. But is there anything, any element of the lifestyle or the country that you miss?
[00:51:33] Yeonmi Park: Other than the people, I don't miss how close I was to other people in the community. We say, well, it's not a good thing, but it's very creepy that I even know how many chopsticks and spoons my neighbors had. Like that's how close we were.
[00:51:49] Jordan Harbinger: Really? Even though there was no trust.
[00:51:51] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. But like, we'd go over and hang out, but we don't talk about politics. You don't talk about those things, but like talking about crops or your kids, like those things.
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: Crops? That is a very North Korean topic. How does the crop look? Geez.
[00:52:04] Yeonmi Park: That's what we talked about.
[00:52:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:06] Yeonmi Park: And nobody has a device. So everybody is looking at each other's eyes but here, like I have no clue who's my neighbor is.
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: No, when you love your Instagram though.
[00:52:18] Yeonmi Park: Well, I do try to like control that though. I know what the social media is like. That is really horrible.
[00:52:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:25] Yeonmi Park: I use it to try to raise awareness.
[00:52:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I'm messing with you. Of course, I follow you.
[00:52:29] Yeonmi Park: No, no.
[00:52:30] Jordan Harbinger: You're doing a good job of balancing it.
[00:52:31] Yeonmi Park: Oh, thank you. Yeah. It's very tempting and it's so hard. I didn't understand that, even though I was living in New York, I was going to university there, a lot of my friends are like working in finance. It's like Manhattan, right? In the consulting, investment bankers, always successful, like biggest law firms in the world, and at least 60 to 80 percent of them go to therapy. And then they were like, "You need to go to therapy because you're traumatized." I was like, "What do you mean trauma?" Right? And then it was really weird in the beginning. Why does these people are not happy? They're living on the top of the world, having everything they need. Why are they not happy? And eventually, I do understand some parts, but I think the isolation is quite something I didn't expect it to be this much. You are lonely and alone here.
[00:53:20] Jordan Harbinger: It's true. I mean, we are like the loneliest generation or something like that. A lot of it does probably have to do with social media.
[00:53:27] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:53:27] Jordan Harbinger: That's a whole different show, I think, right there.
[00:53:29] Yeonmi Park: Exactly, yeah.
[00:53:30] Jordan Harbinger: Do you ever have dreams, or I should say, do you ever have nightmares of like, like you wake up and you're in North Korea?
[00:53:35] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I mean, I still I get up and I get beaten and I try to escape. And the only very unique thing with North Koreans even, whenever you ask them in their dream is always North Korea. And that's the thing. You never escape. In your subconscious, you're there forever. Like my mom every night, she's there every night. And they're like, nobody escapes in your dream.
[00:53:58] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Well, I've heard you say that you can tell a North Korean by their voice on the phone.
[00:54:04] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:54:04] Jordan Harbinger: What is it that you hear?
[00:54:06] Yeonmi Park: Oppression.
[00:54:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oppression?
[00:54:06] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, I can totally tell. So I work with a lot of Chinese brokers. I rescue people. I send money, I get information out. Like some products are too, and there are some sketchy Korean, ethnic Chinese, right? There are different ethnicity in China. There are some Koreans who can do North Korean accent, .They tried to lie to you and say, "Ooh, I'm a North Korean. I want to help you. Let's work together, send me cash," or something. Then when I hear them like, "Ooh, no, you're not a North Korean."
[00:54:33] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:54:34] Yeonmi Park: The exact same accent. With North Korean broker, even their broker, they oppressed, you hear it right away. Before my family got punished, I was sending them money, a lot of money, and then talking to a lot of my friends' mothers too. And you just hear the oppression right there.
[00:54:49] Jordan Harbinger: How are you talking to them? On like smuggled phone.
[00:54:52] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, it's a whole oppression. So we smuggled the phone to the border area to North Korea and North Korea jammed the phone. So they have to be in the bicycle, feeding a hood, hiding it, and then moving around 30 seconds. Then 30 seconds later, they have to go all the way to the other town and then call me for like 30 seconds. And then we have to use a lot of words, like sugar and candy, all coded words because they could hear you.
[00:55:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, because they're using technology to listen to the call.
[00:55:19] Yeonmi Park: Yeah.
[00:55:19] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, so sugar and candy is like people.
[00:55:22] Yeonmi Park: Or whatever you are trying to get out. Or like information is all about like a lot of grocery store, cabbage, how's the rice, how's the corner. how's the weed, you know, like, what am I? So that's all coded words.
[00:55:34] Jordan Harbinger: Is it a smartphone? Because I feel like encrypted chat is so much easier.
[00:55:38] Yeonmi Park: They don't have usually the Internet in North Korea. So we get just the old days, those sliding phone, the Chinese phones that we have. Some of them do have smartphones, but the Internet is not connected.
[00:55:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:55:48] Yeonmi Park: So we call the Chinese phone in America. But the Chinese phone, they'll be smuggled in, kind of answer it.
[00:55:54] Jordan Harbinger: It only works when you're like right on the border.
[00:55:57] Yeonmi Park: Or if I want to talk to somebody inside, indoor, the inner of North Korea, then we turn to call the North Korean phone and Chinese phone and then turn the speaker phone.
[00:56:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. Yikes. What an operation? That's quite complicated.
[00:56:11] Yeonmi Park: But then North Korea is even more dangerous, so you got to sound like North Korean, you got to completely talk in a way, but usually you just want to verify, like if somebody there. Are they still alive? Because a lot of people that I love the family, then they know. So they tried to get money from me. So there's like, "Oh, your aunt is there. I'm your aunt. Can I get money?" And the brokers want to get money, make money from me, so, "Oh, your aunt is asking for money." So I want to just verify if this is my aunt or not. So I said like, "Oh, how's, maybe, your child? What grade is he in the school? Or like, what's the name?" Then they tell me like, if they don't know — of course, they have no clue. Or go, "Do remember the birthday, when we went to this river. And then when you saw this, what do you remember was all together?" If they don't remember, like they are not.
[00:56:55] Jordan Harbinger: There's no banks, people don't know, like you can't Venmo someone in North Korea, no banks, there's nothing. So how do you even get money to them? You just have to have somebody carry it there.
[00:57:05] Yeonmi Park: No, we have to send the money to Chinese brokers bank in China. They get the money out. The commissions are sometimes 50 percent, 60, 70 percent.
[00:57:14] Jordan Harbinger: You don't have a choice.
[00:57:16] The biggest banking business you can get in. It's so high. Then they get the money out and then they wrote it and then like we do hide it in the plastic bag and then you put a stone and the one like string, and then you throw as hard as you can to the North Korean side.
[00:57:32] Jordan Harbinger: You're kidding.
[00:57:33] Yeonmi Park: Or put it in a tube and then let the tube go with the rock. You have to really be great in throwing rock and they will, the thing that you can act do this, or somebody is going in person and going out in. A lot dangerous stuff but you do that.
[00:57:46] Jordan Harbinger: So the Tumen River is just full of like rocks with money wrapped around it.
[00:57:50] Yeonmi Park: No, it's very impossible now because the security is so hard.
[00:57:53] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:57:54] Yeonmi Park: So you have to bride the guards. The guards take the money out of it. The North Korean broker gets the money out of it. Chinese broker gets money out of it. And then when it end up in your family, it's like very little amount.
[00:58:05] Jordan Harbinger: What a crazy operation that is? You've been through so many different circumstances in your life, you must feel like, it must feel like you've lived a hundred lifetime.
[00:58:14] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I feel like I literally live 2000 years. I haven't seen it all.
[00:58:21] Jordan Harbinger: How does helping people escape North Korea work? Like what does it cost to get someone out.
[00:58:25] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. I mean, I cannot say the exact route they take.
[00:58:29] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, no.
[00:58:30] Yeonmi Park: Mostly, we take them through Thailand now. North Korea regime knows it too. Everybody knows it too. Not everybody knows it, it's the government teams.
[00:58:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:37] Yeonmi Park: But we know the location, but how we do is that, it caused around less than $2,000, like 1800.
[00:58:45] Jordan Harbinger: To get a person out?
[00:58:46] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, from China too. But from North Korea, it's impossible now.
[00:58:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, so you can't get people out of North, you can only get them out of China.
[00:58:54] Yeonmi Park: Even with 50,000 or 100,000, you cannot get out.
[00:58:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh because of the security.
[00:58:57] Yeonmi Park: It's so secure.
[00:58:58] Jordan Harbinger: How many North Koreans are in China waiting to escape now, in your estimation.
[00:59:03] Yeonmi Park: Approximately, they say around 300,000 people.
[00:59:05] Jordan Harbinger: 300,000.
[00:59:07] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. Mostly women that being trafficked and being sold and raped.
[00:59:10] Jordan Harbinger: We met a lot of Korean, they said Korean Chinese, but what do I know, when I was in Dandong on the border. And, to this day, I wonder how many of them are actually just North Korean. And they were always with old guys, which I thought was really unusual and creepy.
[00:59:24] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. All of them are North Koreans. Usually they say they're ethnic because they cannot speak perfect Chinese.
[00:59:30] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:59:30] Yeonmi Park: So like, why do you have accent? They're like, "Oh, because I'm ethnic Chinese." The ones that escaped very early on in the '90s, they were able to buy the ID. So in China called the Hukou, somebody says Hakka. So if somebody dies the family do not report on the police and then sell their ID because a lot of children left the city to work.
[00:59:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:59:50] Yeonmi Park: A lot in China, rural areas, a lot of young people go work in the city.
[00:59:54] Jordan Harbinger: So their Hukou, their ID from their village or whatever is just sitting in the drawers.
[00:59:58] Yeonmi Park: Yeah. And then, so those are farmers sell the Hukou and then you buy it. But then like nowadays you the social credit system and everything's on digital, it's really hard to fake it. But back in the '90s, even the Internet wasn't that widely used, so unless the police will call that town, asking the town around the round, do you think that child is alive or died. The town people know but then police is not going to go travel all the way to the countryside and then check it. So it was those people actually hiding in China and then do those things.
[01:00:28] Jordan Harbinger: Is the bottleneck then just funds to get these people out?
[01:00:32] Yeonmi Park: If you can get them out, it's the best thing, right? Imagine like, if there's at least a hundred thousand North Koreans escape, that power is going to be unbelievable. And that many people are going to speak out with information. When the North Koreans come out, as I said, it's not like they are only escaping themselves. Most of the North Koreans reach back to their family and send money information. So imagine how many people are getting funds from the free world and hearing about the word.
[01:00:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, this is useful. Look, speaking of ads and capitalism, what if we use the ad profits from this episode to get North Koreans out of China? Can we do that?
[01:01:07] Yeonmi Park: Not from North Korea, but China.
[01:01:09] Jordan Harbinger: From China.
[01:01:09] Yeonmi Park: Yeah, that is absolutely.
[01:01:11] Jordan Harbinger: Let's do that. Can I text you after this and we'll figure out how to do it. I have no idea how to do that.
[01:01:15] Yeonmi Park: I can help you.
[01:01:16] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Yes, let's do that. Okay, let's end right there because that's a happy note on the end of this crazy, crazy saga.
[01:01:23] Thank you so much for your time and for coming in. This has really been — I don't even know if there's not one word I can describe it. So thank you so much for sharing. This has just absolutely been incredible.
[01:01:32] Yeonmi Park: Ooh, thank you for having me. It's an honor.
[01:01:37] Jordan Harbinger: Here's a trailer for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Charles Ryu here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:01:42] Charles Ryu: When I was 14, I got my first opportunity to escape North Korea and go to China. Police came to our house. We are getting deported to North Korea. I got transported to a detention center. They are brainwashing us for nine months. I started working in a coal mine when I was paid only in rice. So one morning, instead of entering the mine, I walked up the path and began running and in the distance, I saw a train come to stop. This is my chance. I need to get on the train. I finally made it to the border town. I'm already determined, the next day, right? I walked into the river that divides North Korea and China, which is the Yalu River. And then I slowly walked into the water. I slipped on a rock and I let out a screen. A flashlight was on my back and I heard a soldier screaming at me.
[01:02:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[01:02:31] Charles Ryu: [Foreign Language] Stop, stop, or I will shoot. The guard kept screaming at me, but he never pulled the trigger. And then I went into the cornfield. I'm in China now. So I embarked on another long journey to Southeast Asia. I got to Thailand. That was the best day of my life, going to Thai prison. And then I was trying to apply for South Korea, but they didn't recognize me as a refugee. And they were like, "We would have to send you back to China." Chinese government sent me back to North Korea, but those guys don't want to help me.
[01:03:03] Jordan Harbinger: And that's just the tip of the iceberg. He escaped the police. He had to run with secret police in China. I mean, this guy just has an absolutely amazing sense of survival and story. And that's episode 84 with Charles Ryu, Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist, part one and part two, episode 84 of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Make sure you check it out.
[01:03:23] So I spoke the truth, I did a different type of episode with Yeonmi Park. It's interesting about her being on a kill list from Kim Jong-un from the regime and finding that liberating. I don't know if I would find it liberating, but then again, I've never been on a kill list, at least not as far as I know. Bill Browder, episode number three of this show is also on Putin's kill list. Other investigative journalists I've spoken with have similar feelings about being hunted, maybe it's liberating, but, yeah, they don't fly Russian airlines, for example. Her book, which is linked in the show notes goes into detail on the situation in North Korea, her human trafficking story. It discusses the negotiations on the price she was sold for it, et cetera.
[01:04:00] It's really just surreal. And again, a harrowing tale. I think you'll really enjoy it. I enjoy reading those accounts. I've read pretty much everything on North Korea. And the place, if you haven't been, which most of you have not is really surreal. I talk about my trips there quite often. Episode 435 and 439 were just stories from me and Gabriel Mizrahi, who, you know, from Feedback Friday on our trips to North Korea because both of us have been four or five times each, sometimes separately.
[01:04:24] Big thank you Yeonmi Park. Her book will be linked in the show notes. Always use our links if you don't mind to buy books from the guests. It does help support the show, audiobooks included. Worksheets for episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts for episodes are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview and many others that always go up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. And our clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show or highlights from the interviews that you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you can find that. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:04:58] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits. The same ones that I use every day, including the software that we made to keep in touch with folks. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. I don't need your credit card info. There's no sneaky stuff going on. It's just for you at jordanharbinger.com/course, I want to teach you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:05:25] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into North Korea, harrowing stories, or just a fan of Yeonmi Park, please share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:06:00] This episode is also sponsored in part by Chinet. Chinet is a people focused brand disguised as a premium disposable tableware brand. Chinet prides themselves on being part of authentic human connections and playing an important role in togetherness. They've been a part of American culture for over 90 years, providing durable plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, and table covers. Chinet is the go-to brand for cookouts, holidays, birthdays, game nights, baby showers, and more. Chinet brand believes not only that everyone should have a place around the table, but that everyone should be welcomed with open arms and a full cup. Chinet Classic, Chinet Crystal, and Chinet Comfort products are all made in the USA with at least 80 percent recycled materials. Chinet brands products can handle anything from the sauciest ribs to the most generous slices of cake. Made to be microwave safe and leftovers' best friend, easy cleanup, environmentally conscious. Great for the upcoming holiday gatherings and perfect for all of life's get-togethers. Visit mychinet.com to find out more.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.